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Processed Meat – A Different Story

A recent announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding a link between processed meats, like sausage and ham, and cancer has been grabbing headlines. WHO actually went so far as to classify processed meats as carcinogens – cancer causing agents. In specific, the report says the daily consumption of 50 grams (about 1.5 ounces) of meat that is “salted, cured or smoked” increases the risk of some cancers by 18%. Needless to say, the report is generating intense controversy.

I was reminded of a report on processed meat a few years ago from the Harvard School of Public Health that was not nearly as controversial, but worth visiting again for those of us concerned about diabetes. This study looking at the diet and long term health of more than 400,000 individuals found that eating 2 ounces of processed meat daily increased the study subjects’ risk for developing type 2 diabetes by 50%!

I have mentioned before that studies identifying factors which increase the risk for developing type 2 diabetes may still be very relevant to managing type 2 diabetes after diagnosis too – here’s why. Type 2 diabetes is a story of the progressive loss of insulin sensitivity and insulin production, and managing diabetes is the story of working to preserve insulin sensitivity and insulin production. If some factor, like processed meat, leads to developing type 2 diabetes, that factor’s impact on insulin sensitivity and/or insulin production doesn’t just stop at diagnosis. In many cases those risk factors continue to work directly against diabetes management.

The recent story of processed meats and cancer is getting a lot of press, but for us the real motivation for making processed meats an occasional treat, rather than as a daily staple, can be found in the Harvard study.

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